College-bound students get new options in Web 2.0 sites

Many college-bound high school students are forced to contend with low standardized test scores that limit the caliber of colleges and universities to which they can apply.

New Web 2.0 sites, including and, are both enabling students to market themselves more effectively to higher-education institutions, and allowing colleges and universities to target potential students more efficiently.

Sites like MySpace, Facebook and LiveJournal are serving as models for companies like Cappex and Zinch. College-bound students can open free accounts with either of these sites and create customizable profiles for colleges and universities to view.

According to Matt Middleton, assistant director of Admissions at the College, some applicants are directing admissions officers to Cappex and Zinch profiles, though the vast majority of potential students file paper applications.

“Our hope is to go to essentially a paperless process,” Middleton said. He added that the office of Admissions would manage the process online. At that point, he said, “We’ll probably become more familiar and more comfortable with using those kinds of sites.”

According to Mick Hagen, president and co-founder of Zinch, the Web 2.0 format, in which sites are characterized by greater interactivity and collaboration among users from typical Web sites, has allowed students to market themselves to colleges and universities.

“We know high school kids live online,” Hagen said, “and so colleges can reach out to kids and interact with them on their own stage.”

“(Zinch) allows every high school kid to be put on the radar,” Hagen said. Before taking an official leave of absence, 23-year-old Hagen said he spent a year at his dream school, Princeton University. “I was one of those kids who wasn’t on the radar for the kind of colleges I wanted to attend,” Hagen said. He said this was due largely to his standardized test performance.

“I wanted to help the kids who are just like me,” he added.

Hagen said Zinch is “a place for high school students to showcase who they really are to colleges and universities.” He said that, typically, colleges and universities will purchase a list of students who scored within certain parameters on their SATs. These students will then be targeted for recruitment.

According to Hagen, Zinch also allows higher-education institutions to recruit more effectively. He said colleges and universities will pay a user fee between $5,000-15,000 to have access to Zinch profiles.

Hagen said this allows for a more efficient exchange of relevant information.

“Colleges can get more information on students and students can share more information about themselves,” he said. Currently, more than 500 colleges and 375,000 students are using Zinch.

Both Zinch and Cappex will provide students with additional colleges and universities that match their profiles.

“We can target those students and send a message to them on the college’s behalf,” Jace Mouse, a Cappex spokesman, said. “For us, the real value is when we actually provide a match. It’s one thing to create your profile . but it’s much different when we can say colleges actually like you.”

According to Middleton, the College currently does not subscribe to either of these services.

Middleton said the site would need to gain popularity in order for the College to consider subscription.

Though she had not used either of the Web sites, Jordan Rooney, a senior at Ramapo High School, said she saw the utility they provided after applying to 10 separate colleges and universities.

“If schools just base admitting a student off of the SAT, they don’t find out who the person really is or what they could bring to the school.”

Rooney said she also saw the benefit in the two sites’ matching feature. “That would be a tremendous help,” she said. “You have more options to choose from than just one school.”

Allison Turley, a junior at Rancocas Valley High School, said she also saw the value of the Web sites.

“My SAT scores don’t really show my grades in school and the things I do outside of school. (They’re) just kind of average,” Turley said. “Some people can be bad test takers and other people can be really good test takers. It doesn’t really show much about a person just based on their scores.”